Sustainability’s New Road Map: 4 keys about green parking

The idea of green building is here to stay, as the popularity of the LEED rating system attests. And now another structure presents opportunities for greater sustainability: The parking garage. New thinking and new technology make it possible to reduce the environmental impact of parking structures and to improve communities through eco-aware parking services. Following are four points to consider: 
Parking is one of the largest uses of land in cities. According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), there are 105 million to 2 billion parking spaces in the United States today for roughly 300 million vehicles, which are parked for about 95 percent of their lifetimes, “yet we rarely think about how parking spaces affect the environment.” But that’s changing…

Here are some examples of programs and technologies that green the garage, as well as provide advantages to its owner, such as operational cost reductions of up to 25 percent.

  • Energy efficient lighting and ventilation systems
  • Waterless or water-efficient fire suppression systems
  • Stormwater management
  • Green cleaning
  • Recycling
  • Low- or no-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paint and other coatings
  • Eco-conscious roof options (such as green roofs or roofs that collect rainwater)

Users, their vehicles, and the community also can benefit through programs and services such as the following, which help minimize fuel use, engine wear, emissions, and noise:

Idle-reduction/convenience technologies such as:

  • Mobile apps to help drivers find available spaces and pay without waiting in line
  • Wayfinding that enables parkers to scan a QR code with their smart phones to locate their parked cars

EV charging stations and tire-inflation stations:

  • Carsharing programs
  • Bicycle parking

There now are official guidelines and recognition for sustainable parking operations through a certification program called “Parksmart.” A recent article in Forbes called it “an important development for the parking industry,” and predicted it could “have the same result on the parking industry that LEED has had on buildings.”

Parksmart, formerly known as Green Garage Certification, complements USGBC’s other certifications and is administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which also oversees LEED.

A new or existing garage can earn points in three categories (management, programs, and technology structure design) leading to Parksmart certification. The “How Green is Your Garage?” checklist will help you spot opportunities for improvement.

You don’t have to do it alone. Seek the assistance of a parking system vendor with green parking expertise and other up-to-date processes and technologies. This type of expert can assess your situation and design a holistic program for you that fits your budget. Certain upgrades (for example LED lighting systems) can often be financed through expected energy savings.

A full-service parking vendor can offer other creative solutions too—such as providing shuttles from a public transit center to your facility, which can attract and support employees and customers who prefer not to drive, and in turn, support the environment.

If the vendor is part of an integrated facility services company, you might also benefit from contracting with them for multiple services (such as engineering, landscaping, janitorial, etc.), which can lower costs while improving service consistency throughout your facility. Choosing a partner that is eco-conscious within their own operation is another way to support sustainability.

Given that transportation in the United States now emits more greenhouse gases than power plants do, there’s a great need to consider all options for minimizing further impact on the planet. Green parking can be one smart, cost-effective approach.

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Arnold Klauber is senior VP West Region, ABM – Business & Industry. For more information, contact Arnold at Arnold.Klauber@ABM.com.

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